Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas convened the PLO's top decision-making body on Friday to map out a strategy after declaring that talks to form unity government with ruling Hamas militants had collapsed. Abbas has two options, both problematic for him - fire the Hamas-led government or hold a national referendum on whether to call early elections.
Abbas ready to quit unity gov't talks
Recent polls have shown that Abbas' Fatah Party would not have enough support to oust the militantly anti-Israel Hamas in new balloting.
But if he dismisses the Hamas Cabinet, the Hamas-dominated parliament would veto any new government he appoints, leading to a constitutional crisis that could force elections.
Abbas has been trying for months to cobble together a government of Hamas and Fatah ministers that would be more accommodating of Israel than the one Hamas currently leads. But those talks have faltered repeatedly over Abbas' insistence that Hamas recognize Israel and renounce violence - key international demands.
Hamas' refusal to moderate its ideology has resulted in a punishing aid cutoff that has created great hardship in the Palestinian territories.
On Thursday, with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at his side, Abbas announced that the negotiations were at a "dead end."
Abbas' aides said then that he would decide on his next move in coming days, in consultation with the PLO Executive Committee, the organization's top decision-making body. The executive committee began conferring on Friday in Ramallah, and afterward, Abbas _ who is also head of the PLO - was to head to the Gaza Strip to update Palestinian faction leaders on the talks.
Hamas has suggested Abbas' declaration that talks had collapsed was designed to pressure the group to make further concessions in negotiations. And Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, speaking in Cairo, denied the talks had broken down.
The latest round of Palestinian government talks foundered over who would control weapons and money in a future Cabinet of independent administrators who would be close to Hamas or Fatah, but not prominent members of either group.